Biography 2nd Part


More about JOHN PORTER - His life and his interests


One Saturday during 1867, grandfather William Porter of Bayview, went to Carrickfergus, as usual, to visit his farm Bessfield. He took his son John, then about seven years old, with him. John left his father and after wandering in Carrickfergus Market, he bought a baby pig, tied a string round its neck and then walked home, mostly carrying the pig! The distance was two miles. John cared for the pig entirely, feeding it at his father’s expense,  eventually selling it. He then bought a calf, which he looked after entirely, and again fed at his father’s expense! After that we hear little about animals, except there was always a smooth haired Irish terrier. Father was faithful to this breed for life.

August 1885 father married. His first home was "Meadow Bank". There he had fields and time from the Belfast office to enjoy a horse and Irish Jaunting Car, which he and mother used often (with first one baby and then a second) to visit friends and family and to enjoy the country. The house faced the sea. A cow was kept always, as it was "a dreadful thing for people, and especially children, not to have fresh milk twice a day." Jimmy was in charge of horse, cow and garden. Many years later in Australia, James McDonald, always called ‘Jimmy" visited father and mother at the hotel where they were staying in Sydney. Jimmy having gone on one of the P. Iredale & Porter ships with his whole family for health reasons to Gippsland and had prospered in the sugar business. He was then very wealthy and Mayor of some town, the name of which I have forgotten. His eldest daughter was christened Kathleen Elise Porter McDonald. She came to Ireland and met all the family and was given a nice souvenir by Kathleen Elise Porter. This was a source of great delight to her. Her brother had been over and fought in World War I, had visited the family; fortunately going home safely.

After leaving Ireland in 1889 for Liverpool, the family went to live at "The Acres". Fields were all around the house and lovely gardens, of which Jimmy took charge. There father had Neil Smith as coachman. Every fine day the carriage went for grandfather Iredale and mother often went with one of us children. They drove about the lovely Cheshire countryside. Bebington was then really a village.

While at "The Acres" one of the captains brought a kangaroo from Australia. Its name was, of course, Joie. It was a great pet, everyone loved it and we children spent our time in the high wire enclosure playing with it. It was very gentle and played games with us, racing around the field, with us racing to catch Joie, We were terribly distressed when Joie tried to jump the high wire and was badly torn, so father had her put to sleep. I can still remember father’s distress and our tears. Our son John has a photo of his grandfather, John Porter, with Joie on "The Acres" lawn.

With the turn of the century changes came. Mr. Iredale had died. Father saw the beautiful old sailing ships would soon be a thing of the past in favor of steam. He was not interested, so, as ships were sold or lost, they were not replaced as previously - the firm became smaller. Mr. Hannay, father’s junior partner, wished to take a good appointment offered to him; father decided to retire gradually, aged forty-two. He sold "Laurel Bank" and took his family to Ravenhill to live, winding up the firm from there. This took about ten years, in fact, he still had the ship "Ravenhill" when war was declared in 1914.

During these first years father went to Liverpool, London, etc., every Monday, returning Thursday or Friday. Later years, when the firm was wound up, he still went once a month to directors’ meetings in London. From then on he enjoyed his extensive farming interests at Templepatrick, and, to a lesser extent, "Lettice Lands", Greenisland.

After World War I, the labor problem, together with advancing years for father and his land-steward, Mr. McLaren, it was decided to sell the land he owned and the lease of Lord Templetown’s estate, which he had farmed for about twenty years. Mr. McLaren retired and father enjoyed "Lettice Lands" near Ravenhill. He told me on many occasions "I keep no accounts, if I did I might not farm"!

Father was an original member of the Royal Ulster Reform Club and The Royal Ulster Yacht Club.

We could give other shipping reports but these are covered in papers held by my husband, J. A. Stewart Porter, most of which will be passed on to our son, John Porter, Media, Pa., U.S.A. There are also the following books for John about the firm and their ships:

"Sailing Ships of Ireland" (when father was with William Porter & Son, Belfast)

(My edition is signed by the author, Ernest B. Anderson) (Donated to the author by John S. Porter)

"Belfast and the Province of Ulster"

(William Porter and Robert Johnstone Porter’s photograph)

"Liverpool in the 19th Century" (John Porter’s photograph)

"The Last of the Windjammers"

The Annie Johnson ( originally "ADA MAY IREDALE" tho’ somehow the May got lost)

"Gypsy of the Horn"

"Under Four Flags" (Patterdale - Later "PETER IREDALE")

The Liverpool ships’ names are mostly in another list written from memory by our good friend, Mr. A. Leon Marsh of Liverpool, who was with P. Iredale and Porter when he was a young man. The largest number of ships at any one time held by P. Iredale and Porter was twenty—eight, as was stated by my mother and father many times.

My husband Stewart and I, with family, went to visit father in Belfast, after mother’s death March 30th, 1934, We spent May till the third week of September 1934 with father. Father was failing rapidly, and I left him saying we would return in six months, When I reached New York I learned he had died in his sleep September 30th, 1934, and was being buried about the time we landed in New York. A terrible blow, but he missed mother and was never the same after she was gone.

So ended the life of a busy ship owner, who had traveled to his ships in trouble all over the world America, North and South, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Fiji Islands, Falkland Islands, Canada, Argentine, Valparaiso, San Francisco, Ceylon, Hawaii, Rio de Janeiro and had crossed the Andes, and, of course, European Ports, like Hamburg, etc. He had bought and sold ships, also had many built to order.

I shall always wish he had written down his many interesting sea tales, one of which I do recall. It is the story of going on an awful old tub of a ship called the "Yhora" (I have no knowledge of the spelling) but the ship was bound for New Zealand from Australia or Tasmania,

Memory says Tasmania. Father had mother with him and they were on a world tour. At sea and in a gale, father discovered the Captain was drunk and stayed drunk. The Chief Officer was frantic and begged father to stay on the bridge. Mother was in bed all voyage and on reaching New Zealand my teetotaller father headed for the company’s office, where he had plenty to say. The company was most distressed. In return for father acting Captain, for the first and only time in his life, the company refunded the passage money from port to port for them both. Mother said nothing could repay that awful voyage. Father never left the bridge during the entire voyage of several days. He considered the ship unseaworthy and doubtful of reaching port. They were booked by first class liner from New Zealand to San Francisco. From there went by train to the Buffalo Exhibition and New York, sailing home to Liverpool by the "Campania". I remember father was very upset because, owing to the hot weather in July, mother never left their hotel in Buffalo to see the Exhibition.

Both father and mother came to Rose Valley, Pa., later to visit Stewart and myself and the two granddaughters, Maureen Porter Strong and Elise Porter Williamson. John Andrew Stewart Porter, born later, was taken to Ireland at the age of six weeks to see his grandparents — very delighted to have a grandson, John Porter, father and mother having no son, but Kathleen had married her cousin Stewart Porter — the grandson was John Andrew Stewart Porter

My sister, Doris Porter Harper, has the painting of the "Martha Lizzie Iredale". This ship was called for my mother, Martha Lizzie Iredale Porter. Captain Iredale, a distant relative, sailed away with her and went to the bottom of the sea, no one knew where. All hands were presumed lost.